Pornocracy. The term was coined to refer to the period that Cardinal Baronius called “the dark age” (saeculum obscurum): the tenth century Papacy. Protestants attempted to use this term to discredit the Church as entirely corrupt, but they failed to realize that the Holy Ghost had used the same accusation against the Church of the Old Covenant, Israel:
Thou hast prostituted thyself to many lovers: nevertheless return to me, saith the Lord, and I will receive thee. Lift up thy eyes on high: and see where thou hast not prostituted thyself: Thou didst sit in the ways, waiting for them as a robber in the wilderness: and thou hast polluted the land with thy fornications, and with thy wickedness (Jer. iii. 1-2).
The term πορνεία (porneia) meant fornication and prostitution but in the spiritual covenant of marriage between God and Israel, it also meant idolatry. Thus the unfaithfulness of Israel to the one true God is cast as adultery, as the Holy Ghost says in another place:
Judge your mother, judge her: because she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her put away her fornications from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts… And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, to whom she burnt incense, and decked herself out with her earrings, and with her jewels, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord. (Os. ii. 2, 4-5).
The New Testament uses πορνεία again to refer to both sexual sin and idolatry (cf. Mt. xix. 9; Apoc. ii. 21; xiv. 8; xvii. 2, 4). Yet the definition of idolatry is broadened also to greed, which is idolatry (Col. iii. 5).  And elsewhere the Blessed Apostle mentions them together: For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or greedy person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. v. 5).
If this is porneia, what is a pornocracy? We are living through the third pornocracy.
The First Pornocracy (882-964)
Since porneia means fornication and idolatry, then a pornocracy refers to government by corruption in the worst way. It means sexual corruption, financial corruption, and most importantly spiritual corruption afflicting the Papacy and the Vatican. There has always been corruption in the Church since Judas and before in Israel. Yet new lows were reached in the tenth century papacy. The sexual and financial corruption of the Papacy by powerful families vying for power were exactly like the modern day Vatican Mafia, but we will return to this below. Murder, adultery, idolatry, greed and darkness reigned in the Papacy in the tenth century. This reached its nadir with Pope John XII (955-964). OnePeterFive writer Roberto de Mattei describes this pontificate:
According to an unanimous description of the sources, the young Pope was a dissolute pontiff, who didn’t interrupt his life of reckless abandon in unbridled pleasures, even with his election to the Papal Throne [at eighteen].
Pope John XII was the pope whom St. Robert Bellarmine described as “practically the worst of all pontiffs.” The Emperor Otto was called upon to intervene, and De Mattei continues:
Otto the Emperor convened a Synod in St. Peter’s, in which the bishops and archbishops of his retinue, the clerics and Roman Curia, the leaders of the city and representatives of the people, all took part. John XII however, had quit the Eternal City. When the Emperor asked the reasons for his absence, the Romans replied that they were to be found in the Pope’s immorality, which was described in a long list of crimes: simony, sacrilege, blasphemy, adultery, incest, abstention from the sacraments, use of weapons and trafficking with the devil.
All of them, clerics and laity alike, declared that ‘he had turned the Holy Palace into an actual bordello’ [brothel]; ‘he had blinded Benedict, his spiritual father, who died shortly afterwards; he had killed John, Cardinal Subdeacon, by cutting off his genitals; he had set fires; he girded himself with a sword and armed himself with helmet and shield: they testified to all of this. All of them, both clerics and laity, cried out that he would toast to the health of the devil; they said that in games of dice he would invoke the help of Jupiter and Venus and other demons; that he would not celebrate Matins and the Canonical Hours, and wouldn’t make the sign of the cross.’
Sedevacantists would have us believe that nevertheless, John XII’s sermons and official pronouncements on doctrine were miraculously, one hundred percent pure orthodoxy, and the same would be said of the other pornocrat popes.
But what would John XII be saying if he had a Twitter account? What if he gave interviews on a plane? If John XII was not smart enough to invent heresies, it is highly doubtful he could be relied upon to preach the precision of orthodoxy in his public addresses. I would hazard that the pontiff was at least ambiguous in his official acts of Magisterial teaching which are lost to history (like public sermons). And his personal acts of devotion left no room for doubt.
That’s why the clergy and people of Rome wanted him deposed, and in fact did so, electing Leo VIII in his place. Does the Church condemn the people of Rome as schismatics? No. After Leo was elected, John XII still fought with him, but God Himself gave the judgement between them: Pope John was murdered by the husband of his mistress.
The Second Pornocracy (1471-1563)
This period was worse than the first. This was the Renaissance Papacy. There was not only sexual and financial corruption, but these popes had armies and sought to fight other Christian nation states on the Italian peninsula. Julius II, for instance, was nicknamed “the warrior pope” who named himself after Julius Caesar. Erasmus condemned the corruption of the Second Pornocracy with his sardonic In Praise of Folly:
Though that apostle tells our Saviour in the gospel, in the name of all the other disciples, we have left all, and followed you, yet they [our popes] challenge as his inheritance, fields, towns, treasures, and large dominions; for the defending whereof, inflamed with a holy zeal, they fight with fire and sword, to the great loss and effusion of Christian blood, thinking they are apostolical maintainers of Christ’s spouse, the church, when they have murdered all such as they call her enemies; though indeed the church has no enemies more bloody and tyrannical than such impious popes, who give dispensations for the not preaching of Christ; evacuate the main effect and design of our redemption by their pecuniary bribes and sales; adulterate the gospel by their forced interpretations, and undermining traditions; and lastly, by their lusts and wickedness grieve the Holy Spirit, and make their Saviour’s wounds to bleed anew.
Like we implied regarding the first period, Erasmus indicates that he has heard these popes “adulterate the gospel” by “forced interpretations” which are “undermining traditions.” As would be expected, these popes were not only corrupt in their morals, but corrupt regarding the doctrine of the faith. What kinds of sermons had these popes preached that Erasmus had heard? What kinds of public addresses?
Were these popes too, as sedevacantists claim, horribly corrupt yet miraculously orthodox, without ambiguity in doctrine? It would be against reason to assert such a thing. Just because we do not have written records of official acts (like sermons) which contain these corruptions of the faith, we still have indications from contemporary witnesses like Erasmus, that such corruptions of doctrine were being done by the popes themselves in their acts as popes, leading to scandal not only in morals, but also in faith. Besides, the era of the pope being a universal teaching office (churning out multiple encyclicals per year) would not happen until after Vatican I.
The worst pope of this period may have been Alexander VI (1492-1503). He fathered nine children, seven while a cardinal with two different women, and when he was pope, in his sixties, he convinced nineteen-year-old Giulia Farnese to become his concubine. He had Annius of Viterbo produce an elaborate forgery for him “as part of a Vatican campaign to legitimize and bolster papal claims to parts of Italy” allowing the pope’s armies to invade. These forgeries also included the racist ideology of the “curse of Ham” which would be used for centuries to justify the expansion of the old Muhammadan trans-Saharan slave trade into the “Christian” trans-Atlantic slave trade.
It was the Rome of the Second Pornocracy that Martin Luther visited as a monk and was so scandalized he invented his own heresy to try to cope with his anger at the pope and hierarchy. We too might be scandalized about the corruption in our own day and the hate the pope and bishops, and be tempted towards new errors like sedevacantism or old errors the Greek schisms. Yet look what happened when Luther left the Church: it created a problem much worse than the first.
The Third Pornocracy (1965?-present)
This third pornocracy seems to be worse than the first two. It is so bad that Our Lady herself came down to warn us about it in some way. The Fatima children first received the message about Eucharistic reparation from the Angel, and then came the exhortations of Our Lady to penance and suffering for sinners, with a warning of the errors of Russia and God’s punishing wrath.
It is unclear when exactly the errors of Russia invaded the Church. It certainly seems that under the papacy of Pius XI (1922-1939), there were serious problems with bureaucracy (at least), as the good pope was deceived about the Cristeros, Padre Pio and Action française, and did not consecrate Russia to avert World War II. But some suggest Cardinal Rampolla was the origin even earlier (the Secretary of State of Leo XIII), as he was accused of occult membership when he was elected pope in 1903 and then vetoed.
In any case, in the 1950s and 60s the corruption in the Vatican is beginning to be felt, and the widespread doctrinal ambiguity and heresy was the element that makes this pornocracy worse than the first two. By 1975 Paul VI commissioned the trusted Cardinal Gagnon to conduct an investigation. According Fr. Charles Murr, one of the closest living sources to this period, the Cardinal spent three years investigating every single person in the Vatican. The dossier he produced detailed to Paul VI that we are living through the Third Pornocracy. And this was in 1978.
The dossier was passed eventually to John Paul II, who at first did not take Cardinal Gagnon seriously, but after the assassination attempt on his life, recalled Gagnon and began to crack down on Vatican corruption. But because of the machinations of the Vatican mafia, the good will of John Paul II was not enough. The corruption continued and seems to have increased, with continued Vatican Bank scandals, culminating in the first big revelation of the Pornocracy in 2002.
Benedict XVI, who spoke of “fear of the wolves” in his first sermon as pope, seems to have further targeted the Pornocracy but perhaps in the end the Pornocracy got him. Another investigation was conducted, like the former by Gagnon, and once again (it is rumored) sexual and financial corruption was revealed in 2012 in association with the Vati-Leaks scandal.
Now the Vatican Mafia (which formed into the St. Gallen Mafia in the 1990s) have their man as pope: Jorge Bergoglio. And he has shown himself loyal to his wicked entourage of pornocratic Marxists profaning the name of Catholic.
Why the Pornocracy Does not Compromise the Church
Unlike the Protestants, who saw Church corruption and invented heresies to cope with their emotional trauma, the Holy Ghost speaks against the harlotry of Israel in the most stark terms, yet God is still faithful to Israel. This is why the Church can be spotless, even while evil men corrupt souls and even rule the Church. This is because the Church is actually ruled by Christ Himself, and all the hierarchy are merely his vicars. St. Paul speaks to the pope and bishops as much as to fathers here:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish… This is a great mystery; but I speak in Christ and in the church (Eph v. 25-27, 32).
It is this mysterious union of God with His people, of Christ with His Church, which makes her pure and spotless, no matter what. It is this which Marriage sacramentally manifests—the love of the spouse for the beloved, in which nothing can ever efface this love and nothing can break this bond until death. No matter what a spouse does.
In the same way the Church as the Bride of Christ will never be destroyed nor polluted even in the greatest corruption, for Christ is always faithful to His spouse. And it is His love for His Church which makes her overcome. The love of Christ for His Church makes her indefectible. This love is shown in what the Holy Spirit says in Osee about pornocratic, adulterous Israel:
Therefore, behold I will allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness: and I will speak to her heart… And it shall be in that day, saith the Lord, That she shall call me: ‘My husband,’ and she shall call me no more ‘my master’… And I will espouse thee to me for ever: and I will espouse thee to me in justice, and judgment, and in mercy, and in compassion. And I will espouse thee to me in faith: and thou shalt know that I am the Lord… And I will say to that which was not my people: Thou art my people: and they shall say: Thou art my God. (Os. ii. 14, 16, 19-20, 24).
This is how we must look at the current Church corruption, this Third Pornocracy, and know that God will do what He has always done: bring good out of evil. As Joseph says, typifying Christ and His Church at the Crucifixion and beyond: You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see, and might save many people (Gen. l. 20). In fact, every 250 years or so, the Church faces certain destruction as a continuation of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.
Next week ahead of Christmas, we will look closer at how we can have great hope in the face of this darkness. We will then show how God brought good out of the evil of each pornocracy, and that He will do the same in our own era.
Title photo: Jean-Paul Laurens, Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII (“Pope Formosus and Stephen VII”), 1870. This event, the “Cadaver Synod” took place during the First Pornocracy.
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 τὴν πλεονεξίαν ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρία.
πᾶς πόρνος ἢ ἀκάθαρτος ἢ πλεονέκτης, ὅ ἐστιν εἰδωλολάτρης, οὐκ ἔχει κληρονομίαν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ.
 Cited by De Mattei in De Romano Pontifice, l. II, cap. XIX, in De controversiis christianae fidei, Apud Societatem Minimam, Venetii 1599, p. 689.
 De Mattei here cites De Iohanne papa et Ottone imperatore, by Paolo Chiesa, Edizioni del Galluzzo, Firenze 2018), 15.
 Erasmus, In Praise of Folly, trans. Anonymous (London: 1876). Pt. 3.
 Steve Weidenkopf, The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths (Catholic Answers Press, 2017), 213. It should be noted however that some scholars question the common, negative view of Alexander VI as another anti-Spanish black legend. See Lorenzo Pigniotti, La Legenda Nera Di Papa Borgia (Fede & Cultura; 2° edizione, 2016); GJ Meyer, The Borgias the Hidden History (Bantam, 2014).
 Ibid. On the Muhammadan trans-Saharan slave trade, see Tidiane N’Diaye, Le genocide voilé (Continents Noirs: 2008) as well as Bill Warner, The Doctrine of Slavery: An Islamic Institution (Center for the Study of Political Islam, 2010).
 The accusation is listed as “alleged” by OTO archivist Peter-Robert Koenig (Das OTO-Phaenomen, Germany 1994) who cites Georges Virebeau: Prelats et Franc-Maçons, Paris 1978. On the one hand, it would seem the Austrian Emperor had great political cause to veto Rampolla, since Rampolla had favored France (enemy of Austria) under Leo XIII. Yet on the other hand, he was risking a lot to level such grave accusation a Cardinal. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that a whole line of corrupt clerics derive from the Rampolla cardinalate and episcopacy, including Francis himself. Randy Engel, The Rite of Sodomy (New Engel Publishing, 2012), vol. V, 1090-1093; From Rome, “‘Team Bergoglio’ and the Legacy of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro,” (Jan 10, 2015).
 This has also been confirmed in the author’s personal interviews with Fr. Murr. Charles Murr, The Godmother: Madre Pascalina, A Feminine Tour de Force (2017).
 V. 32: τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν.
Timothy Flanders is the editor-in-chief of OnePeterFive. He is the author of City of God versus City of Man: The Battles of the Church from Antiquity to the Present and Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics. His writings have appeared at OnePeterFive and Crisis, as well as in Catholic Family News. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate dedicated to uniting Catholics against the enemies of Holy Church. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in Michigan with his wife and six children.